Saturday, December 4, 2010

More on Sidney Crosby's Hot Start

Earlier this season I looked into Steven Stamkos' quick goal-a-game start. Now that Sidney Crosby has overtaken Stamkos in the Ross race (and will in the Richard race soon, methinks), let's take a look at Sid. Is his unreal pace this season for real?

All data courtesy of behindthenet.ca.

First few stats. Click for larger.


So Crosby is not getting a dumptruck full of TOI at 5-on-5, though he is getting quite a bit (note: the old behindthenet.ca is giving me 15.08 TOI/60). His competition at first glance is on the tough side, his teammates adequate but not great, and his points% at 92%!!! He's clearly driving the bus. Well, more like five buses. His on-ice shooting% is high, which certainly helps, but his PDO is probably around Crosby's true PDO, so I guess his total offensive + defensive contributions are right around normal. His zonestart isn't helping him much; just imagine how many points he'd have with a 60% zonestart! We'd be talking about Crosby 50-in-50.

As a Caps fan, I'm scared that Crosby's stats are for real. Let's look into it some more.

Crosby's Corsi Rel on the Pens is good, not great, considered in a vaccuum at least. Minutes? Third toughest. Teammates? Poor. On-ice team shooting? Essentially team-leading. Zone starts? Sixth hardest. Zone shift? Sixth-last in Zonestart to third in zonefinish is absolutely stellar.

I'm getting really scared now. Crosby is brilliant. Let's trudge on.

Using some quick math, I adjusted Crosby's point totals to see whether according to his underlying numbers he's still ultra-dominant. His 12.45 on-ice shooting% I adjusted to just over 8%, which is near league average. His pts% at 5-on-5 I changed from 92% to 85%, and his PP pts% I changed from 85% to 74%. Let's see what differences those make.

Crosby 5-on-5 on-ice goals for goes from 30 to 20. His 5-on-5 points then fall from 28 to 17 (falls to 26 without on-ice shooting% adjustment). His 5-on-4 points fall from 11 to 10. (Note: his on-ice save percentage would go up quite a bit too, but I'm not too interested in that right now)

His total points would fall from 44 (30 ES + 13 PP + 1 SH) by 14, to 30. If I use his on-ice shooting% as 10% instead of 8.5%, I get 20 ES points, which is an 8 point drop off, leading to a point total of 35.

What about his 20% shooting? His 21 goals on 105 shots, using his career average of 15.2% shooting, goes to 16 goals, a loss of 5. So his 21-23-44 becomes 16-19-35. That's probably underestimating his abilities some (I'd wager long-term Crosby's on-ice shooting percentage at 5-on-5 would exceed 8.5%), but those differences shouldn't change the result much.

Hockey is played on the ice, not on paper. But we can tell Crosby is still exceeding some of his career percentages by quite a bit. It might just be improvement--he's entering his offensive prime right now, a few years before he hits UFA age--but I doubt it's only that. He's playing much closer to the pack than the raw point totals might seem. If you think about it, that isn't saying much, since he's still out in front by a healthy margin. This season, his ability is all-world, and his performance is all-world-all-time.

I have little doubt that Crosby right now is playing like the best player in the world: adjust Stamkos' numbers similarly, and Crosby is still leading the Art Ross Trophy race, despite tough competition, tough zonestart, and weak linemates. Datsyuk and Zetterberg can't hold a flashlight to him right now. Don't even get me started on Henrik Sedin. He's taken the mantle of best player in the world back from his rival.

Your move, Alex.

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